Rearing Brine Shrimp to Adult Size
Some people call them Artemia salinas. These “sea monkeys” rule.
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Male and female brine shrimp en flegrante in a petri dish.
Origin. Most of our U.S. frozen brine shrimps and eggs (really cysts) come from the Great Salt Lake in Utah or the shallow salt flats in San Francisco (a San Francisco treat). The Utah shrimps start life larger and grow a bit larger than the Frisco shrimps. Both these bodies of water contain considerably more salt (nearly twice) than standard sea water. About the only other thing that lives in this high salinity environment is the algae that the brine shrimps thrive upon.
Few Predators. U.S. brine shrimps live in a predator-free environment. In Africa and Chile, the flamingos avidly strain brine shrimp with their weird bills. Their carotene-filled brine shrimp diet colors their plumage an attractive dark pink (which makes them suitable for our front yards). Those same carotenes bring out the reds, oranges, and yellows in our aquarium fish. Check out the white flamingos in our U.S. theme parks. They don’t get much brine shrimp.
Small Adults. Brine shrimp mature at ¼-inch. This takes only three or four weeks under good (uncrowded) conditions. Their small size, great taste, and limited mobility make them an ideal prey for most aquarium-sized fishes.
Frozen Brine Shrimp. Shrimpers net these guys and flash-freeze them within hours of their capture. This means they retain all the nutrition their tasty little bodies contain when captured – including the algae in their innards. They are much more nutritious than any live shrimps flown in from the coast. However, aquarium fish love the thrill of capturing and devouring live brine shrimp. Live or frozen, your small fishes will gobble up brine shrimp like kids gobble up M&Ms.
High Salinity. If you decide to raise these tasty critters, you need (more of a want than a real need) a hydrometer to measure the dissolved salts in the water. Sea water runs 1.020 to 1.022. Brine shrimp grow in much saltier water. Too much salt reduces their growth rate.
Salt Water in a Box. Commercial salt water mixes contain all the ingredients you need to make perfect brine shrimp rearing water. Just add H2O and stir. These mixes even contain the buffers you need to maintain proper pH. Some people like to make their own artificial sea water by mixing rock salt, powdered lime, baking soda, and Epson salts. But working out the right proportions and pH level is fairly complicated.
Temperature. Like most outdoor critters, brine shrimp can adapt to wide temperature variances. The warmer you keep them, the faster they grow through their life cycle. Room temperature works fine, but you’ll take four weeks to grow them as opposed to three. Not much of a problem.
Container. Use whatever non-metallic container you have on hand. Metal containers and salt water do not mix. You’ll need at least 10-gallons of water to make the end results justify all this work. And you will not grow as many shrimp as you see in the picture above. That’s ½ pint of solid brine shrimp (at least as solid as unfrozen brine shrimp get).
Aeration. You can hatch the eggs in water that “boils” from the high aeration provided. The growing brine shrimps need much less water agitation. A slow air-powered sponge filter will provide aeration and filter their water with no danger of catching them in its suction. Yes, you can grow more and faster shrimp if you use a sparger injecting 98% O2 into a reverse flow system if you prefer. Of course, then you’d also want an O2 meter and a crew to monitor your equipment and a computer to track your progress.
Light. Strong light encourages the growth of unicellular algae (their favorite food). Don’t be disappointed if your brine shrimp eat your algae faster than you can grow it.
Food. Use one of the commercial artemia foods for best results. Or any of the micro-foods. Or experiment with yeast, pureed greens, powdered eggs, or powdered milk. Follow the directions and err on the side of underfeeding. Make the water just a bit cloudy with the food. Feed your brine shrimps daily.
Gut Loading. Since brine shrimp are filter feeders, they will eat any small particles drifting thru the water -- even powdered fish foods. Some hobbyists feed their shrimp special foods they want their fishes to ingest. Lizard keepers call this gut loading. Some people just like to go the extra two miles.
Harvesting. Net them out of your container with a regular fish net. The adults are large enough that they won’t slip thru the mesh. Smaller ones slip thru to live and grow big enough to catch later. Feed them directly to your fishes. A little bit of salt won’t bother your fishes. If you decide to wash the salt from them, you may need a brine shrimp net. Rinsing the salt off and adding salt to their water on purpose seems contradictory to me. Just put them in your tank.
Lots of Work. Raising brine shrimp takes time and effort. However, watching your fish snap up the shrimp is a fun addition to your fish keeping hobby. LA.
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